|Ambassador Nogami delivers the opening speech
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this, the occasion of the opening of the seminar ��apan is yours to discover in KANSAI�ߡ� I am pleased to welcome Mr Shojirou Nanya, Chairman of the Kansai International Tourism Promotion Center. I am also very pleased to see quite a few people who are engaged in the British tourism industry attending today's seminar. This event, taking place as part of the Visit Japan Campaign which was launched by Prime Minister Koizumi, has been organised by the Kansai International Tourism Promotion Center to promote Japan's Kansai region as an attractive tourist destination.
Relations between Japan and the United Kingdom are in excellent shape. Nonetheless, it remains a fact that the number of British visitors to Japan is extremely small. Last year, for instance, the number of Japanese people visiting Britain was around double the total for British visitors to Japan. Moreover, Japan was the destination for only 3 in every 1,000 British travellers. As Japan has scarcely registered in the consciousness of British people as a tourist destination, it is scarcely surprising that few British people are really acquainted with Japan or its people.
In order to cement a solid and durable relationship between our two countries, it is essential that as many British people as possible develop an interest in, a knowledge of, an understanding of and ultimately an affection for Japan. Tourism can play an extremely important role for this.
For some time now, the Embassy and JNTO London office have been taking every opportunity to promote the Visit Japan Campaign. In May this year, the UK Visit Japan Campaign Promotion Committee was established to promote inbound tourism to Japan from the UK. Senior figures in the tourism and travel industries, as well as government representatives from both the UK and Japan, and key officials from other related organizations are already serving on this Committee. I am convinced that it is realistic to hope for a considerable increase in the number of British visitors to Japan. In fact, a pleasing trend is already under way, as the number of Britons visiting Japan from January to June of this year was 10.7% up on the same period last year.
So, in the context of British tourism to Japan, what is special about the Kansai region? In my opinion, it has an abundance of extremely compelling features. In Kansai you will find the modern and the traditional coexisting harmoniously. Wakayama contains areas of great natural beauty. The delights of Kyoto and Nara are well documented, while Kobe is a modern, relatively cosmopolitan port city in a most attractive setting. In fact, the Kansai region contains the biggest concentration of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites in Japan. However, I must not steal the thunder of the eminent speakers who have come here today to talk about why and how Kansai can attract more British tourists to Japan. Suffice it to say that you will all be experts on the charms of the Kansai region by the end of today's seminar!
I trust that all of you who have not yet visited Japan will go to see it for yourselves. On the other hand, for those of you who have, isn't it time for another trip? Spread the word and encourage others to experience Japan at first hand. A warm welcome awaits you all!
*Related link: 'Japan is yours to discover in Kansai' seminar and reception